A Khan in Constantinople

Chalcedon, 1170 CE:

Nikolaios Bryennios glanced out at the calm waters of the Marmara. Gently its waves lapped against the shore, accompanied by the call of seagulls. Offshore two Venetian galleys lazily beat their way toward Constantinople, the Queen of Cities. It was a magnificent sight, sunlight glinting off the dome of Hagia Sophia. The light breeze from the west carried with it the sounds of a city with almost half a million souls, the greatest and wealthiest city in all of Christendom, the capital of the Roman Empire. Once on the brink of destruction just eighty years earlier, it was once again on the rise.

He looked down at the figure standing next to him. He too was staring out across the water, gazing at the great city before him. When he had first spotted the city, his bluish-green eyes had widened in surprise and awe, making him look like the boy of eight he was. But now they had resumed their usual aura, quiet, calculating. He was from central Asia, an orphan from one of the varied tribes that roamed the great steppe. Short, with black hair and a small nose, he was now a slave, Nikolaios’ slave.

“Come, boy,” he said. “This way.” He gestured down the coast. Sullenly, the boy trudged in that direction as Nikolaios mounted his horse, trotting alongside a moment later. “Oh, don’t be so glum,” he said. “You’ll like what you see.”

They crested the small rise and the boy did smile, the second time Nikolaios had seen the boy do so since he bought him in Trebizond from a Venetian. The first had been at Nicaea, when they had walked by a column of peltastes, heavy skirmishers of the army capable of fighting in melee. The boy had smiled, nodding in what looked like approval.

He had smiled then, but it had been a small one. He now had a huge grin; Nikolaios wondered that his face did not split in half. In front of them an allagion of doryphoroi were conducting training exercises. Armored horse archers, they were running through an obstacle course, discharging arrows at targets on both sides of the course on command. Overall they were doing fairly well.

Nikolaios trotted down to the training field, the boy walking alongside, no longer dragging his feet. Nikolaios spotted the man he was looking for, a tall but broad man who had just turned thirty, clad in mail with his helmet under his arm, the breeze fluttering through his short brown hair, bellowing at a hapless soldier whose performance in the exercise had been poor. “You kill the enemy by shooting them, you lout! Not by hurting the ground ten feet from them!” he yelled.

“Allagator Manuel!” Nikolaios shouted. “I wish to speak to you.”

Manuel Laskaris looked over and smiled. “Ah, you old coot!” Nikolais was seventy years old, still limber for his age, but his face was pocked with wrinkles, his head with no hair. Manuel turned to the man next to him. “Dekarchos Andronikos, have this sorry excuse for a soldier run the exercise again. If he cannot hit more than half the targets with a lethal shot, he is on latrine duty.” The soldier nodded and Manuel walked over, Nikolaios dismounting as he did so.

The two Romans clasped forearms. “So what brings you out here, old man? Come to join the exercises? Some of these worthless lads could use the shaming.”

“Sorry, but no. My days of soldiering are long over.” He winced, massaging his lower back, where a long ridge stretched from side to side. “Damn Normans. Anyway, I brought you a present.” He gestured at the boy, who had been watching the soldiers but whose eyes flicked back towards them. They were different now. There was still that quiet, calculating air to them, but there was something else, something behind them. There was a fire in his eyes. Nikolaios had seen it once, as a young lad going to war the first time, in the eyes of then emperor Alexios I Komnenos. But the fire in those eyes dwarfed those, a bonfire outshone by the sun itself.

Manuel had seen it too. “Why?” he asked, looking back at Nikolaios. The boy looked back at the horse archers.

“I don’t really need another kitchen boy, and I doubt he would make a good one anyway. But I’ve been a soldier or trained ones for half a century, and I can smell the martial quality about him. Perhaps you might be able to do something with him. I’m too old.” His left lip twitched upwards. “Who knows, maybe in a few years he’ll be out there, shaming the recruits. He does have the blood of the steppe in him.”

Manuel laughed. “Very well. I accept.” He walked over to the boy, crouching down. The boy looked at him, the fire still in his eyes. “So what is your name?” Manuel asked.

For a second there was silence, but then the boy answered, one word. “Temujin.”
I can see where this is going!

Utterly terrifying.

I am interested to see whether Temujin would adopt the Roman way of life, or bring the way of the steppe to Constantinople.
Temujin the Byzantine Keshik? Now that kinda puts some topsy turvy on the rest of the world. The Crusades will be starkly different with Temujin at the helm, plus I'm guessing that the Mongols would be butterflied away. How did Temujin end up as a slave in the Byzantine Empire anyways?
Subscribed immediately. This is much better than an attempt to remake the Chaos TL!

Wait...Baselius is that you? Oh thank you! THANK YOU for you far more interesting version of what I wanted! THANK YOU!
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Oh my god! This sounds epic! I was expecting the destruction of Constantinople, not to see it plated in gold at the expense of all of Europe being looted in doing so! Huzzah this sounds badass!
Yeah, I would like to see a flash-back type thingy... It wouldn't really advance the alternate history side, but it would tie up loose ends and be good for character development.
Temujin was sold as a slave as a kid I thought. I think he was pointed in the direction of China, but you never know.

Also, go Jumahka!
Jamukha Khan, Great Khan of Mongolia? With Jamukha at the helm, prominent generals like Subudei would never come to power because he's of common origin.
I recall reading a story by Robert Silverberg ("A Sleep And A Forgetting") that touches on this idea, but only very briefly--so I'll be interested to see where you go with this.